The eighteen-year-old donated his gold medal from the 200m freestyle event at last year’s World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, having it melted down and now being turned into 100 golden bows – a symbol of the fight against childhood cancer – and given to children who beat cancer.

“I chose to donate my gold medal from the World Championships as a sign of hope for children diagnosed with cancer,” Popovici shared in an Instagram post. “Hope is immune to cancer.”

Long seen as a rising swim talent with two Olympic finals appearances to his name by the age of 16, Popovici broke through in 2022. At last year’s World Championships Popovici won the 100m and 200m freestyle events in Budapest, becoming the second swimmer ever after the American Jim Montgomery to manage the feat.

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He followed this up by going even faster two months later at the European Championships. Racing in Rome, Popovici broke the World Record in 100m freestyle with his 46.86 and dipped under the 1:43 barrier in the 200m freestyle to set World Junior Record at 1:42.97.

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The former 100m freestyle record had stood for 13 years, having been set during the “shiny suit” era. By breaking the record, Popovici became the youngest swimmer to break an individual world record since Michael Phelps.